Out of Control Policy Blog

Suffering in Silence

Reason's Katherine Mangu Ward wrote in Friday's Wall Street Journal reflecting on the 100th birthday of Rachel Carson and the celebration of her book Silent Spring. As Katherine says "With all the birthday hullabaloo, now seems as good a time as any for a re-examination of Carson's legacy." It is a good look at the good and bad of that legacy. Some snippets to give a sense:

. . .

Her concerns about the effects of insect death on bird populations were well-founded. But threats to human health were central to her argument, and Carson was wrong about those. Despite massive exposure in many populations over several decades, there is no decisive evidence that DDT causes cancer in people, and it is unforgivable that she overlooked the enormous boon of DDT for malaria control in her own time.

. . .

Carson didn't have the benefit of more than 40 years of additional data, but her successors do. DDT remains the cheapest and most powerful tool for stopping malaria. When sprayed on interior walls, it has virtually zero interaction with wild ecosystems. Yet when the topic of relaxing restrictions in order to save millions of lives comes up, someone inevitably brandishes a copy of "Silent Spring" and opposition is silenced so completely that you could hear a mosquito buzzing in the next room.

Adrian Moore is Vice President, Policy


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